• shyness;
  • pragmatic language;
  • adjustment


The goal of this study was to examine the moderating role of pragmatic language in the relations between shyness and indices of socio-emotional adjustment in an unselected sample of early elementary school children. In particular, we sought to explore whether pragmatic language played a protective role for shy children. Participants were n=167 children aged 6–7 years, recruited from grade 1 classrooms in public elementary schools. Multi-source assessment was used to measure child shyness, pragmatic language ability, and indices of social and emotional difficulties at school. Results indicated several significant shyness-by-pragmatic-language interactions in the prediction of outcome variables. The pattern of results indicated a clear buffering effect of pragmatic language, with associations between shyness and adjustment difficulties exacerbated at lower levels of pragmatic language, and attenuated at higher levels. Results are discussed in terms of the specific positive benefits of pragmatic language for shy children and the implications for ameliorative intervention programs. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.